Detroit Lions grades vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Only two position groups spared F’s

Detroit Free Press

Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett grades the Detroit Lions in their 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field.

Quarterback

Jared Goff catches a lot of arrows for the Lions’ offensive ineptitude, many of them deserved. As quarterback, he must do more for this team to have a chance. The truth, though, is the Lions have surrounded Goff with subpar talent, including the worst receiving corps in the NFL and an offensive line missing its two best players. Goff was under constant pressure Sunday, but sometimes created his own mistakes by holding onto the ball too long. He said the fourth-down pass he sailed well out of bounds was a physical mistake, not a mental one, throwing the ball away on fourth down for the second time in three weeks. Grade: F

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Running backs

D’Andre Swift made two costly mistakes Sunday, losing a fumble that Darius Slay returned for a touchdown and taking an illegal formation penalty that wiped out a 35-yard catch by Amon-Ra St. Brown. Swift (12 carries, 27 yards) had little space to operate against an Eagles defense that was tuned in to his every move, and the Lions did not have a carry longer than 9 yards as a team. Jermar Jefferson, playing in place of the injured Jamaal Williams, scored his first career touchdown on an 8-yard run and saw time in two-back sets. Godwin Igwebuike was the Lions’ most productive back with 18 yards on three late carries. Grade: F

Receivers/tight ends

St. Brown was one of the few bright spots Sunday. He finished with 46 yards on three catches and showed great effort to fight through a tackle and pick up a first down on a third-and-7 play in the third quarter. St. Brown was the only receiver to catch a pass Sunday, and the rest of the unit had just four targets, an illustration of how badly they struggle to get open. KhaDarel Hodge dropped a pass in the second quarter and T.J. Hockenson was called for a false start penalty, though Hockenson (10 catches, 89 yards) remains Goff’s most trusted weapon. Grade: F

Offensive line

It’s easy to go unit-by-unit and hand out F’s on a day when the offense got shut out for 52 minutes, but in this case it’s deserving. The Lions averaged 3.2 yards per carry as a team and Goff and backup David Blough were sacked six times and lost two fumbles (that the Lions recovered). Matt Nelson allowed two of the sacks in the first quarter, though Hockenson stepped on his foot on one and Josh Sweat beat him wide on the other, when Goff did not seem to have any receivers open downfield. Milton Williams beat Jonah Jackson to blow up a first-down rush early in the second quarter, Hassan Ridgeway beat Jackson for his sack, and Evan Brown had a holding penalty that wiped out a third-and-8 completion. Grade: F

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Defensive line

The Eagles dominated the Lions in the trenches, rushing for a season-high 236 yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry. They exposed the Lions on the edge early. Jalen Reagor gained 11 yards on an end-around on the second series when Charles Harris didn’t set a strong enough edge, and picked up 10 yards two plays later when he caught Julian Okwara in no man’s land. The Lions have been strong up the middle against the run most of the season, but the did not offer much resistance there either, most notably on the Eagles’ second-quarter field goal drive. Michael Brockers had a careless offside penalty. On the bright side, Da’Shawn Hand deflected a third-down pass at the line of scrimmage. Grade: F

Linebackers

Derrick Barnes and Austin Bryant both had seven-tackle games, but the entire front seven was part of the Lions’ atrocious effort against the run. Lions coach Dan Campbell complimented Jalen Reeves-Maybin for his all-out effort late in the game, trying to cause a turnover. But Reeves-Maybin appeared to be out of place on a 19-yard run by Boston Scott in the first half. Alex Anzalone had a rough series to start the second half. He was in coverage and could not close ground quick enough to stop Jalen Hurst on a 20-yard scramble on third-and-12, he appeared to get beat in coverage on a 19-yard pass to Dallas Goedert, and he was called for a hands-to-the-face penalty that was declined on Scott’s second touchdown when he could not get off a block. Grade: F

Defensive backs

The Lions shuffled their secondary with A.J. Parker out, playing Will Harris at the slot cornerback spot in nickel packages and using Dean Marlowe as a deep safety. Harris got beat on a 16-yard over route by Quez Watkins to set up the Eagles’ first touchdown, and he pulled up on a blitz when he had a chance to sack Hurts, who instead scrambled for 12 yards. Amani Oruwariye was flagged for defensive holding in the end zone, but the Eagles were so dominant rushing they attempted just 16 passes. Tracy Walker made a nice open-field tackle on Hurts early in the game. Grade: C-minus

Special teams

Even the Lions’ usually-reliable special teams were a bit of a disappointment Sunday. Austin Seibert, who entered the game with 10 straight made field goals, pushed a 47-yarder wide left on his first try, and Julian Okwara was called for a leverage penalty on a field goal that gave the Eagles a fresh set of downs. Hodge did make a nice sliding play to down Jack Fox’s first punt at the 4-yard line, and Igwebuike and Kalif Raymond had productive days on returns. Grade: C

Coaching

Dan Campbell has done a good job managing games for the most part this season, but Sunday was the exception. The Lions made the rare decision to take the ball upon winning the coin toss, then failed to score. Poor clock management and bad play calling was an issue at the end of the first half, when the Lions hurried to the line on third-and-1 and Swift was stopped for no gain, then Goff took a sack on fourth-and-inches on a five-receiver route. Anthony Lynn’s offense has all the firepower of a toy gun, and the Lions looked ill-prepared coming off an emotional loss for the third time this year. As Campbell said, “You don’t play that bad with a number of guys in areas, and turn the ball over and penalties, and it’s the low energy … unless that comes from the top.” Grade: F

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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